We have not written as much as we should have about the current FCC proceeding looking to reclaim parts of the television spectrum in order to repurpose it for auction to wireless users. The process by which the FCC will pay some broadcasters to give up their spectrum (the "incentive auction"), and get the money to pay for that surrender of spectrum from a simultaneous auction of the reclaimed spectrum, is a very complicated one. It will require careful judgments about how much money will be received and how much will be needed to be spent to clear the required spectrum, and to pay for other costs required by Congress in the enabling legislation (see our article here about the legislation), including the costs of moving remaining broadcasters to new channels after the auction. In order to provide a uniform block of wireless spectrum across the country (so that devices can be built to receive new signals on the same channels everywhere), the television stations that are not going to return their spectrum to the FCC will have to be “repacked” into a reduced television band, requiring some stations to change channels to accomplish that repacking. This week, the FCC made two announcements that will begin to shed some light on that transition – announcing the panelists for a discussion on the repacking process, and asking for comments on the costs to be incurred by TV broadcasters which can be reimbursed by the fund that the FCC is required to maintain to fund that repacking.

The FCC first released notice of the panelists for a September 30 discussion of how the repacking of TV spectrum will take place, discussing the likely mechanics of the repacking and the ways that the repacking can be accomplished efficiently.  (For more on the discussion, go to this page on the FCC website).  Representatives of the FCC will moderate panels of trade association representatives, engineers and others to discuss the repacking process. The discussion will be webcast by the FCC (go here for the webcast on September 30).


Continue Reading FCC Seeks Comments on Reimbursable Costs of TV Stations Changing Channels as Part of Repacking of TV Spectrum for Incentive Auctions, and Announces Panels to Discuss the Process

As is the case with most months, June brings a number of FCC deadlines for broadcasters, both standard regulatory filings and comment deadlines in important regulatory proceedings. The regular filing deadlines include license renewal applications due on June 3 (as June 1 is a Saturday) for Commercial and Noncommercial Full-Power and Class A Television Stations, TV Translators, and LPTV Stations in Ohio and Michigan; and Commercial and Noncommercial AM and FM Radio Stations, FM Translators, and LPFM Stations in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada. Noncommercial stations in the states with renewals also have to file their Biennial Ownership Reports, as do noncommercial radio stations in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

Renewal pre-filing announcements must begin on June 1 for Commercial and Noncommercial Full-Power and Class A Television Stations in Illinois and Wisconsin and for Commercial and Noncommercial AM and FM Radio Stations in California. Post-filing announcements for radio stations in Texas should continue on June 1 and 16, as well as for TV stations in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.

In addition to these regular filings, broadcasters also have many other deadlines that are coming up either in the month, or soon thereafter. Broadcasters who were successful bidders in the recent FM auction have payment deadlines on June 12, and then have a July 24 deadline for the filing of "long-form" applications on FCC Form 301 specifying the technical facilities that they plan to build (see the FCC Public Notice here). Applicants for new FM translators left over from the 2003 filing window are now in a settlement window, with deadlines for settlements between competing applicants due on July 22 (see the FCC public notice here). 


Continue Reading June FCC Obligations for Broadcasters – Renewals, EEO, FM Translator and Auction Filings, and Comments on Regulatory Fees, Indecency, and Incentive Auction Band Plan

April is one of those months in which many FCC obligations are triggered for broadcasters. There are the normal obligations, like the Quarterly Issues Programs lists, that need to be in the public file of all broadcast stations, radio and TV, commercial and noncommercial, by April 10. Quarterly Children’s television reports are due to be submitted by TV stations. And there are renewal obligations for stations in many states, as well as EEO Public File Reports that are due to be placed in station’s public files and on their websites. The end of March also brings the obligation for television broadcasters to start captioning live and near-live programming that is captioned on air, and then rebroadcast on the Internet. Finally, there are comment deadlines on the FCC’s proposal to relax the foreign ownership limits, and an FM auction and continuing FM translator filing requirements.

Radio stations in Texas and television stations in Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana have renewal applications due on April 1. The license renewal pre-filing broadcast announcements for radio stations in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, and for TV stations in Michigan and Ohio, must begin on April 1. All of these stations will be filing their renewals by June 1. EEO Annual Public file reports for all stations (radio and TV) with five or more full-time employees, which are located in Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Delaware, Pennsylvania or Indiana, must be placed in their public files (which are now online for TV broadcasters) by April 1.   Noncommercial radio stations in Texas, and noncommercial TV stations in Tennessee, Indiana Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky must also file their Biennial Ownership Reports by April 1


Continue Reading April FCC Obligations for Broadcasters – Renewals, EEO, Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, Captioning of Live or Near-Live Online Programming, FM Translator Filings, an FM Auction and Comments on Alien Ownership

February is almost upon us, and it brings a host of regulatory obligations for broadcasters – as well as the filing deadline for those interested in pursuing new FM channels in an upcoming auction, and a number of opportunities to comment on important FCC proceedings. The week before last, TV NewsCheck published our latest quarterly update on the regulatory issues facing television broadcasters – and these include several with February dates. Most importantly (at least in the short term), there is the obligation for television broadcasters to upload to their Online Public Inspection file all documents created before the August 2 effective date of the rules (but for documents relating to political broadcasting).   So documents that had been kept in paper – like Annual EEO Public Inspection File Reports and Quarterly Issues Programs Lists – need to be in the Online Public File by the beginning of the month. 

In the longer term, while not due in February, comments to be filed this Friday (January 25) on the television incentive auction process, will need to be analyzed in preparation for the Reply comments due on March 12 in this most important proceeding which may well define the composition of over-the-air television in the coming years. Comments on the FCC proceeding on expanding the information gathered in the Form 323 Biennial Ownership Reports are also due in February – just in time for Valentine’s Day on the 14th

 


Continue Reading February Legal Deadlines for Broadcasters – Online Public File, Review of Incentive Auction Comments, Filing Deadline for FM Auction, and Lots of Renewals and EEO Public File Reports

112 new FM channels will be available in the next auction for new FM channels (referred to by the FCC as "Auction 94") to be held beginning April 23, 2013. To participate, interested parties must file their "short form" applications – setting out information about the ownership of the applicant and the channels in which they are interested – by February 6, 2003. All of the procedures for the auction are set out in the order released late Wednesday, available here. The locations of the available channels, authorizing the winners to build new FM stations  serving the named communities and the nearby area, are also set out in this attachment to the order. The notice adopts many of the same procedures set out when the Commission first proposed the auction back in September (see our article here). However, the Commission pushed the auction back the initially scheduled date for the auction by about a month to avoid religious holidays and the NAB Convention, ending up with the new starting date of April 23. The Commission also pushed back other dates associated with the auction, deleted a handful of channels that had been proposed for inclusion in the auction but had not been properly published in the Federal Register, and announced other decisions relating to the auction – all with many cautions for those who may be bidding about the possible pitfalls of the auction process.

The relevant auction dates are as follows:

Auction Tutorial Available (via Internet) …………………….January 28, 2013

Short-Form Application (FCC Form 175)

Filing Window Opens ……………………………………………….January 28, 2013; 12:00 noon ET

Short-Form Application (FCC Form 175)

Filing Window Deadline……………………………………………February 6, 2013; prior to 6:00 p.m. ET

Upfront Payments (via wire transfer)…………………………..March 18, 2013; 6:00 p.m. ET

Mock Auction ………………………………………………………….April 19, 2013

Auction Begins…………………………………………………………April 23, 2013

The most important dates for bidders are the deadline for the submission of the "short-form" application of February 6, the date for the Upfront Payments, and of course the dates for the start of the auction itself. The short-form lists the owners, any bidding agreements that the parties have with other bidders, and the channels in which the party is interested in bidding. The bidder can also submit specific proposed transmitter site coordinates for any channel in which they are bidding, which protects those named sites from moves by other existing stations that could otherwise preclude their use.   The failure to meet this February 6 deadline means that a party cannot participate in the auction.


Continue Reading FCC Sets Deadlines and Procedures for the April 2013 Auction of 112 New FM Channels – February 6 Deadline for Applications to Participate

Do you want to start a new FM station?   In what seems to have become a yearly event, the FCC has released a list of 117 new FM channels to be auctioned (a list that also includes the proposed minimum bid for each channel). The FCC also issued a “freeze” on FM applications that could impact these channels. The auction itself is scheduled to begin on March 26, 2013. If the Commission follows the schedule used in the last FM auction, we should expect that the deadline for the "short-form" application to participate in the auction (which basically contains information about the ownership of the applicant and a list of the channels in which they are interested) will be due in early 2013, likely sometime between January 1 and January 15, 2013. The upfront payment of the necessary minimum bids would then likely be due around February 20, 2013.

The channels in this auction on which new stations can be built are spread all across the country. Many are located in large western states, including multiple channels in California, Oklahoma, Arizona and Texas, among other states. If you are interested in starting a station from scratch, look through this list of channels to see if there are opportunities for a construction permit for a new station in an area of interest. If you find something that you might consider, you need to start your due diligence on each channel now, as any bidder is responsible for insuring that the channel for which they are bidding can be built and will serve the audience that you expect. If you win the auction and decide that you can’t really find a transmitter site, then you may well be on the hook for the full amount of the bid even if you don’t build the station. And, if you are successful in the auction, you will have to have an available transmitter site to specify in your "long-form" application submitted about a month after the end of the auction – an application that will specify all of the technical details of the new station. So look at zoning issues, FAA considerations, coverage questions, and even whether technical details like the rural radio order limiting move-ins of FM stations from rural to more urban areas, may limit the potential economic value of the channel in which you are interested.


Continue Reading FCC Announces Auction for 117 New FM Channels – And Freezes Certain FM Applications that Could Affect Those Channels

Congress finally has given to the FCC authority to conduct spectrum auctions to reclaim parts of the TV spectrum for wireless users, and most DC-based industry associations, including the NAB, have reacted favorably. For a process that was so controversial, this seems like a very favorable result. Television stations, in particular, will have much relief from concerns about the forced-reallocation of their operations to less favorable spectrum. While most trade press reports have reported on these statements and the very general outlines of the legislation, few have looked closely at the provisions that apply to the broadcaster auctions. Just what do they provide?

The auction provisions were adopted as part of the legislation that just extended the Social Security payroll tax deduction rollbacks, extended unemployment benefits, and fixed certain limitations that had arisen on Medicare reimbursements to doctors. All these benefits needed offsetting revenues to avoid unduly increasing the Federal deficit, and the one seemingly easy place to “find” money, was through spectrum auctions. So Congress ordered the President to identify certain Federal spectrum that could be made available for wireless users, and also authorized the FCC to conduct auctions of broadcast spectrum, but under the very specific guidelines set out below.


Continue Reading Congress Authorizes FCC Incentive Auctions to Clear Part of Broadcast TV Spectrum for Wireless Broadband Users – The Details of the Legislation

The FCC today released its further Public Notice in connection with FCC Auction No. 93, which offers for sale 119 construction permits for new FM radio stations in various communities across the country.  Further details about the auction can be found in our earlier post here as well as on the Commission’s auction page here.  In all, 145 applicants

In addition to the normal FCC deadlines for routine filings, January brings the deadline for comments in a number of FCC proceedings, and a filing window for new FM applications.  For TV stations, the Commission recently extended to January 17 the Reply Comment deadline on its proposals (summarized here) for an online public inspection file